By Dave Manning, Operations Director, Giacom
Until recently, the transition to working from home was unfolding at a gradual pace for many businesses. Although there is much research to back up the benefits of flexible and remote working, many business leaders remained sceptical, believing that office working remained the setup that would be most productive and beneficial from a cultural perspective.
But the current crisis delivered an ultimatum for many businesses – cease operations or deploy technology to enable employees to work from home for the foreseeable future. There are, of course, several industries where working from home is not an option, but for the majority, there are ways to simply facilitate it – demonstrated by the fact that more than 39% of adults in employment are now working from home, compared to around 12% last year.
Many employees are thriving working from home. And the hours they have gained back while working from home are not going to be something they will want to give up easily – two-thirds (63%) of workers said they are open to full time remote working and never going back to the physical office once the crisis is over. It’s becoming clear that the future will not be a permanent office-based workforce, but will shift to a hybrid model combining both remote and office working, allowing for a larger degree of flexibility. This approach of working fuelled by the pandemic is clearly favoured, as 77% of UK employees believe a mix of office-based and remote working is the best way forward post Covid-19.
For those companies set up to work from home, it’s clear that if business continuity and productivity are maintained – or even improved – during a crisis, they will long term as well. But companies that aren’t properly set up to support remote working are missing out on significant business value gains. To facilitate hybrid working long term, employees must be equipped not only to survive, but to thrive. So how can resellers support end user organisations in transitioning to this new way of operating in the future?
A cloudy future
The lockdown enforcement saw the need for businesses to adapt to this new way of working almost overnight, resulting in a huge surge of enquiries to resellers to get employees working remotely as quickly as possible. Even with cloud-based solutions gaining popularity over the years, a lot of business infrastructure remain on-premises. Businesses need to be moving to a cloud-based infrastructure where the technology they deploy allows for the flexibility to work remotely and on-premises if required. For IT companies supporting SMBs who want to future-proof their businesses and replace outdated on site servers, the cloud offers a fixed cost server solution to IT companies supporting SMBs, while delivering secure storage and easy provisioning as well as scalability – ensuring a futureproof solution for end users.
Collaboration tools have come of age and the race is on to both develop and implement smoother integrated IT communications, video, voice strategies so that business can perform at an even higher level whilst working from home. Similar to the transition from letter writing to email, businesses are realising they can actually get more achieved in the same time with cloud-based tools and people not having to travel miles around the country on public transport, in cars or internationally by plane.
And as virtual collaboration tools develop even further to deliver advanced capabilities, employee productivity will only increase. Resellers will be the crucial advisors to companies in order to facilitate their needs, backed up with support from CSPs to help navigate through the most relevant and valuable cloud solutions for their end users.
Resellers have undoubtedly already experienced the surge of businesses looking to get staff up and running with remote collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Teams etc.. But in the rush to get everyone online and maintain business continuity, security considerations likely slipped much further down the list. Given the continued increase in frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks, especially those capitalising on the current crisis through phishing scams, ‘Zoom-bombing’ incidents and the like, it’s never been more important to prioritise cyber security.
This is especially true for those organisations that are new to the concept of remote working. While they may have had a solution in place for keeping the corporate network secure within the physical office, a virtual business requires different tools and techniques. This is where resellers can play a crucial role as key consultants to end-users on how they can keep their data secure and deploy reliable, cloud-based backup solutions to safeguard their sensitive information even further.
A hybrid and flexible infrastructure
While we are all looking forward to this crisis being over, given the nature of the pandemic it’s unlikely that there will be a hard stop to lockdown. Even with the government now lifting some of the restrictions, we can expect a combination of working from home and office working with social distancing and other measures still in place for some time to come. And research has found that 74% of business leaders intend to shift some employees to remote working permanently. No one knows exactly what that journey will look like, so businesses require the toolkit and technology to enable a hybrid working infrastructure now and into the future.
Moreover, lockdown measures may be starting to ease gradually, but if the UK is faced with a second wave of the virus, or we experience another crisis in the future, additional lockdown measures may have to be put back in place, as was the case in Singapore that struggled to contain a second wave. Flexibility is therefore crucial to safeguard business continuity and enable organisations to maintain optimum productivity levels even in the midst of another unprecedented event.
The key will be for resellers to support end users in deploying tools that support this new way of working. From unified communications and collaboration software, to cloud-based backup and security tools that keep the corporate network safe no matter where the user is based, resellers hold the key to unlocking end user organisations’ continuity, productivity and flexibility.